10 January 2013

South Africa: Statement Delivered By the Minister of Transport, Honourable Dikobe Ben Martins, At the Conclusion of the 2012 Festive Season Road Safety Campaign

Photo: Fortune.
Accident Scene (file photo)

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Deputy Minister of Transport, Honourable Sindisiwe Chikunga,

Officials from the three spheres of government,

Chief Executive Officers of state owned agencies,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen.

I am pleased to welcome members of the media and stakeholders to this press conference.

Today marks the official conclusion of the 2012 festive season road safety campaign which was undertaken as part of the year long programme to promote road safety in our country.

I should like on behalf of the Ministry and the Department of Transport to express our sincere condolences to all those who lost loved ones over the Festive Season.

Accompanying us are the Chief Executive Officers of the Road Traffic Management Corporation, the Road Accident Fund, the Cross Border Road Transport Agency, and the Road Traffic Infringement Agency. In due course they will each take few minutes to highlight their specific experiences during the festive season

The festive season programme is not implemented in isolation, but forms part of an ongoing programme of campaigns that the Department of Transport, its agencies carried out in conjunction with transport stakeholders and the general public throughout the year to ensure that lives are saved.

Road traffic fatalities are amongst the main causes of death in South Africa. This results in serious social and economic costs for the country. These consequences include the loss of family members, bread winners and leave behind traumatized families.

The economic ramifications include the increase in the social development and health budgets spent. At least R306 billion rand is lost to the economy due to road fatalities each year.

In December 2012, the department, its agencies and stakeholder partners announced various measures to be undertaken to promote the safety of people on our roads throughout the festive season. As part of these measures, the department called upon South Africans to observe and obey the rules of the road.

A significant amount of financial resources were invested to promote awareness and to intensify enforcement and up-scale general traffic officer visibility. Awareness campaigns were launched and some are still running in all official languages, across different media platforms, including radio, television, newspapers and below the line media.

A dedicated website under the theme Get There: No Regrets was also created to keep the public informed about the state of the roads throughout the festive season. South Africans were also kept informed about the road fatalities statistics on a daily basis. In addition, constant reminders on some of the most common causes of road accidents were communicated to the public on a regular basis.

Using various media platforms, the department sent a message to all South Africans, reminding us that every citizen has a responsibility to comply with the law in order to avoid road fatalities that continue to claim lives on our roads, at an alarming rate.

During the festive season, 17 000 traffic officers were deployed on our roads to police a road network of over 750 000 KMs, used by more than 10 million cars.

Notwithstanding these endeavours, between 1 December 2012 and 8 January 2013, 1,221 fatal accidents were recorded. According to the South African Police Services (SAPS), it is estimated that approximately 1 465 people lost their lives.

The main causes of the road fatalities during the above period were:

  • drunken driving,
  • excessive speeding
  • dangerous overtaking,
  • not using seatbelts, and
  • road unworthy vehicles

The campaign also emphasised the need for drivers and passengers to buckle up whenever they start a journey, even if it is for a short journey. People who buckle up have a greater chance of surviving when they get involved in road accidents. A number of passengers, especially women and children, died because they were not wearing seatbelts. Approximately 40% of the fatalities involved pedestrians most of whom walk on the road while drunk.

In order to combat and mitigate this national problem: The department will continue to implement on-going campaigns to ensure that we significantly reduce road fatalities by the end of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety Campaign in 2020. Necessary actions will be taken to turn the situation around. Building on the previous and recent experiences, the department will continue to improve its enforcement policies and strategies, and upscale public safety campaigns.

Specific interventions, going forward, will include:

I. Review existing legislative instruments to identify areas that need strengthening and further improvements. Amongst others we will review the current alcohol limit, support the total ban on alcohol advertising, harsher measures for serial and habitual offenders including naming and shaming them, stringent criteria on driver's licence application and school campaigns on road safety.

II. Strengthen co-ordination and partnerships within government and outside government to maximize the impact of the public education and awareness programmes. This will include the development of a single national policy on the role and functions of the road safety councils which will mobilize communities to participate in road safety campaigns;

III. Continue with endeavours to improve the state of our roads and the public transport system;

IV. Take further steps towards the implementation of the drivers licence demerit system; and

V. Further technological innovations regarding the use of speed cameras.

Pilot studies are on-going to explore the use of speed cameras with capabilities to count travelling speed between two points.

These issues will form part of the national dialogue.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Achieving the goals that we have set as the department for the greater safety of all South Africans is a long term programme. It will require greater co-operation between the department and all citizens. The department is committed to carrying out this responsibility to reduce road fatalities by 50% by the end of the United Nations Decade of Road Safety in 2020.

Thank you!

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